I first saw the film “Baby Daddy” last year when it hit the festival circuit and I expected to laugh at the biting, spot-on comedy of Alec Mapa’s stand-up but what surprised me was the heartfelt depth of the portrayal of family in the film.
Mapa, known for roles on shows like “Ugly Betty” and “Switched at Birth,” lets the cameras into his personal life with his partner, Jamie Hebert, and how life changed when they adopted 5-year old, Zion and don’t be surprised if you don’t walk away with a clearer understanding of what a family is in 2015.
I talked to the always engaging Mapa last week about the film, which is set to air on Showtime this Friday, as well as his role on the new season of the Lifetime soapy hit, “Devious Maids.”
Congratulations on the film first of all…
Alec Mapa: It’s kind of, like we’ve been living with this movie for so long and now that it’s really happening. It’s kind of surreal. It kind of mostly existed in our imagination and to see it actually kind of go through the paces of being broadcast on cable, it’s kind of like undeniably cool and weird.
Also, mainstream. It’s not like this is on Logo or a gay-centric channel either.
AM: Mainstream. It blows my mind the most. My alternative family, my gay Asian story of adopting a black kid was a corporate decision. That blows my mind.
It also makes a lot of sense because I feel like we’re at a place now where something like “Baby Daddy” doesn’t have to be only on the gay-centric channel.
AM: I know. I was thinking about that. Showtime’s been airing a lot of LGBT stuff lately, Tig Notaro was on last month and just a lot of LGBT comics. It’s kind of cool.
I know that a lot has changed since the film first was a part of the festival circuit last year, right?
What are your thoughts watching it again and seeing how far you all have come just as a family?
AM: Well, having a child is like watching somebody evolve everyday right before your very eyes. So looking at my son in that film is already like looking at baby pictures. He has really grown and changed completely. His vocabulary is different, physically he’s completely different, and I think that I’ve changed as a parent because being a parent to a 10-year-old and being a parent to an eight-year-old are two completely different things. I mean, ask any parent that.
In the show, I talk about Zion coming to live with us for the very first time as a five-year-old. A lot of that stand-up really came from the state of shock we all were in. So to watch the special and hear the story of people becoming parents for the first time…we had to figure it out as we went along. I said to so many parents and they say that's exactly how it is for everybody else. The baby arrives, and all of a sudden, it's not just you anymore, you're a parent.
If you could go back in time, what would you say to yourself at that time when you were just becoming a parent?
AM: Just take it easy. I felt a lot of pressure as a gay parent to be perfect. Especially since all eyes are on us and whether or not that’s true. No, actually, I do think it’s true. I think gay parents are under more scrutiny than everybody else because it’s a new narrative for this country. I think I’d tell myself that the perfect parenting doesn’t exist. That your best today is all that’s required of you.
And just being a part of the schools much help you kind of build a little community of other parents. Is that true?
AM: Absolutely. You find out how cool people are. I’ve experienced more goodness from people than discrimination when it comes to my family. I would say the majority of my experiences, like 99.9 percent, that responses have been positive. The people who aren’t on our side, don’t come near us. We’re not the only queer parents at our school so we find each other. I find that we don’t huddle together. We’re just kind of like just any other parents at the school and I kind of feel like that’s the way it should be.
Watching “Baby Daddy” again, I felt that the film is kind of a very subtle lesson for people that maybe don’t understand what different families are like.
AM: I think that if you set out to tell a message you’re going to bore people. If you set out to make people laugh and just tell your story as authentically as you can, they’re going to get it. I think the more specific you are the more universal you become. It’s kind of like when Bruce Jenner was on Diane Sawyer. That was like Trans 101. I don’t watch that show but a million people do and now a million people know what transgender means. It’s an important moment and I think that that’s the thing is when we tell our stories the words say so much.
What you're afraid of is always so much worse than your imagination. Then you realize when it comes to individual prejudices and what you fear it's always worse in your head. Then a person shows up and they walk and they talk and they have feelings, you're like, my gosh, it's just another person.
When you get Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, I feel like your whole journey thus far makes sense because up until now it's been this narrative of him being awkward. Her being awkward of him. It's like this doesn't fit. This doesn't feel right. This isn't me. Now, you see her and she's like relieved. I guess that's the story of all of us right now. It's kind of like 'how do you discriminate against somebody you know?' I grew up in the '70s where Harvey Milk said the most powerful thing you can do, the most political thing you can do is come out because then you're somebody's brother, sister, aunt or uncle, instead of this big scary thing.
What else are you up to?
AM: This year, I join the cast of “Devious Maids.” I’m actually in three of four episodes this season so I’ve been working on that and that’s been a lot of fun. I’m just keeping at it. The life of an actor in LA. I always think I’m never going to work again and then I write myself a show but this time it ended up on Showtime. So, I think that’s pretty lucky.
What can you tell me about your “Devious Maids” role?
AM: I have been an actor for 30 years. I have never played a nurse and for a Filipino person, that’s a very exciting moment. I play Nurse Jerry. I take care of one of the characters who has sustained an injury and that’s all I can say. I’m the one who nurses her back to health.
“Baby Daddy” airs Friday at 10 p.m. on Showtime and will be available on Showtime Anytime. “Devious Maids” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Lifetime. For more on Alec, visit his website.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.